In 2003 there were 5,387,174 people living in Denmark.
The inhabitants are reserved, but also relaxed and friendly.
The largest religion is protestantic of which most Danes are members, but few are observant.
Being close to the Gulf stream, Denmark has a mild climate. Usually it gets no colder than -10°C in winter and no warmer than 25°C in the summer.
The welfare system is extensive. Public schools and universities are free to attend, all necessary health care (except medication and dentistry) is paid by the state. If you haven't got a job, whether it's because you're disabled, studying or retired, you're usually eligible for economical support as well. This means that people can get a university education in Denmark without having to work or indebting themselves.
The downside is that the taxes are very high in Denmark. Usually about 50% of a working peron's salary goes to the state. All goods in Denmark are taxed by a 25% base tax. Spirits and other 'luxury' items are subject to additional taxes, but still pretty reasonable.
Denmark prides itself on being a technologically advanced country, but the main exports are produce and meat. The Danish farming industry produces enough to feed about 40 million people.
Still, Denmark is a world leader in wind power technology and near the top when it comes to cell phone technology(both developed and used). Everybody owns a computer and have access to the internet. All danes speak English to some degree.
About 15% of the electrical power is supplied by windmills, which are a common sight. Large offshore windmill parks have been built near some of the islands.
The rest of the electrical power comes from burning fossile fuels. Denmark has no nuclear power plants.
Denmark is a member of NATO and the European Union.
It's the world's oldest monarchy. However, it's only a constitutional monarchy. The country is run by a democratically elected government. Since no single political party has gotten more than about 35% of the votes in recent times, the government is composed of ad-hoc alliances of political parties with a person from the largest party elected as minister of state.
All laws passed still need the Queen's approval. However, this has no impact on politics in any way.
The name of the current queen is Margrethe the second.
The larger danish islands are:
The Faroe islands(Færøerne) are located roughly halfway between Scotland and Iceland.
There are also a number of smaller islands landing the total at 406.
Denmark is very flat. The highest point is Himmelbjerget in Jutland, the summit of which is a whopping 147 metres above sea level.
The underground is mostly sand and clay, except on Bornholm where hard rock such as granite and marble is ever present.
Things that are nice to know when visiting Denmark
This is not meant as a substitute for a tourist guide but as general advice for anybody interested in visiting Denmark.
Denmark is a very expensive place; the trade-off for our extensive welfare system is the highest tax rates in the world.
The Danish mass-transit system is well-developed, and any town can be reached by bus or train. In a 20 km radius around Copenhagen is a particularly dense system of train lines and bus routes known as the HT area - in Copenhagen there is a metro, which as of this moment (December 2004) is still being expanded.
Inside the HT area there is usually no more than 20 minutes between two buses or trains at a given stop between 6 a.m. and midnight. After midnight it's only possible to get a night bus or a taxi. Be aware, however, that taxis like most other things in Denmark are expensive. $30-40 is normal fare for a 10km trip.
the HT area is divided in zones. It's advisable to buy a 10-trip ticket since they're more convenient(and cheaper) than paying cash every time you need to travel somewhere.
Be aware that getting caught in a train without a valid ticket in the HT area will cost about $75.
Long distance travelling in Denmark is usually accomplished by train. A reservation is usually not required, but can be recommended since you'll be guaranteed a seat. Also, it's very cheap. Be aware, however, that the ticket will need to be picked up at least a day in advance.
The easiest way to find out how to get from one place to another is using rejseplan.dk - this site will calculate route, departure and arrival times as well as display maps.
It can't be beat for accuracy; it's constantly updated with information about construction work and new schedules.
If you're travelling on a budget I can recommend travelling by bus on longer distances since it's about half the price of going by train and just as comfortable. Folders about the different cross-country lines can be picked up at the larger stations.
If you want to visit Bornholm (and I suggest that you do if you like beautiful scenery), there are two ways to get there; directly by ferry from Copenhagen you will get there in six hours. Since the southern tip of Sweden is 'in the way' and the ferry has to sail around it, it's faster (and I believe also cheaper) to sail to Sweden, cross it by train or bus and sail from the other side to Bornholm.
The airport at Kastrup near Copenhagen is the central hub of all air traffic in Scandinavia. This is where tourists from overseas will arrive. There is a train station immediately below the arrival area, and a metro connection is also at the planning stages at the moment(december 2004).
Things to see and do
Christiania is usually high on the list of things that tourists want to see. Since concerts are often held there (see loppen.dk for a schedule) it's a good place to go when you want to have fun. However, it's nowhere near as anarchistic as the hype would have people believe.
Christiania is renowned for the possibility to buy recreational drugs. However, the tide has turned for Christiania, and as of 2004 the many shops at Pusher Street (yes, that's its official name, even on maps) have been closed. Drugs still get sold, but not openly.
Be aware that it's illegal to buy or possess recreational drugs in Denmark, but getting caught with a joint or two in your pocket will at worst result in you getting a small fine.
I can recommend going for a bicycle trip down through Jutland or maybe on Bornholm. That's Danish nature at its best.
Also, the Roskilde Festival which is held every year at around the beginning of July can be recommended if you like rock festivals.
It should be noted that Greenland is still a part of Danmark, although they have their own form of government which is recognized as such. The reason Greenland hasn't become independent of Denmark yet is purely financial; Greenland doesn't have an economy that is self-supporting.
There isn't much similarity between Greenland and the rest of Denmark, so much of what I've written here doesn't apply to it(or the Faroe islands for that matter). Still, it's a very beautiful place to visit.
Jutland has a long coastline on the west coast, which is an almost uninterrupted stretch of beach. Summer cottages have been built all along it, and a lot of these are rented out, usually to germans which visit Denmark for just that reason every summer. I can recommend renting such a cottage for a week or two. A week in a summer cottage costs between $500-$1000, depending on location and time of year. It is a lot cheaper to rent one outside the main season which is July and August. Late summer is best because the water will be warmer(which most people will probably prefer).
The Danish mentality
We danes like to believe that we're very openminded and tolerant. This is only true to some extent. Danes are big on being members of social groups. Depending on how close-knit the group you're trying to infiltrate is, you can be met with anything from mild curiosity to direct hostility. It takes some time for danes to open up to other people.
People from Copenhagen and the surrounding cities are used to meeting foreigners and will treat you with respect as long as you aren't too bothersome. In the rural areas it varies, but people are usually helpsome to great extent.
All danes speak English, some better than others of course.
People in Jutland generally have more self-confidence and
are more outgoing than the rest of the population. They also speak with a stronger dialect than anywhere elso. This means that they're prone to be less boring than other danes, but also that the risk of getting into trouble if you slight anybody when out drinking is higher.
Generally danes are more benign than people of other nationalities. However, we prefer to keep a larger distance to other people than is the norm. That in turn has earned us a reputation for being cold and boring. The advantage of this detachment is that we have a more relaxed attitude towards religion and a larger tolerance for things that would otherwise offend.
Denmark has in the last decades experienced a problem with immigrants not being integrated well into our society. The general thought has been that the problem would solve itself if we provided the opportunity for people to support themselves economically and get an education for their kids.
Since education is free in Denmark (getting a university degree while being supported financially by the state just requires that you pass your exams) it has been believed that children of immigrants were guaranteed to become productive members of our society. However, their parents didn't teach them Danish values, which in turn made them outsiders.
Denmark is becoming a multiethnic society and has experienced trouble adapting to that fact.
A large problem in later years has been that young men of a different ethnic persuation than Danish have been behind a disproportionate amount of the crime committed - 25% of the inmates of Danish prisons are not ethnically danes.
This presents a huge problem in the public debate since we are reluctant to recognize a particular social group as criminal, it being discrimination. Also, muslims have been behind a large part of the religiously motivated violence in Denmark. In 2004 a Danish professor was even attacked because he read a passage of the Koran aloud at a lecture.
Some theorize that this was caused by the fact that many immigrants and fugitives come from countries where freedom of speech doesn't exist as a concept, and have failed to grasp the concept and exhibit a low tolerance for what people are allowed to say.
The only laws Denmark has that limits freedom of speech are the law prohibiting slander, the law prohibiting racism and the law prohibiting encouraging people to commit violence towards a specific group of people.
Incidents like these are what have sparked the huge success of politicians that are hostile towards foreigners in recent years. If you were wondering what makes people vote for a person like Jörg Haider now you know. But it's usually not intellectuals that take that route - which explains why political parties that are big on xenophobia are also populistic.
Still, danes are wary about saying things that can be seen as racist. To emphasize our tolerance towards people with differing opinions, neither nazism or the extremist muslim organization hizb ut-tahrir have been banned in Denmark although an attempt has been made towards outlawing the latter because of fliers the organization has been handing out, in which has been printed a quote from the Koran that urges the killing of jews. This is in conflict with a law we have, which states that no organization may promote violence. However, as of late 2004, Hizb ut-tahrir still operates freely in Denmark.
It has however run into trouble with the press because it's been trying to censor it.
Although nazism isn't prohibited in Denmark, it receives nowhere near as much support as in Norway, Sweden and Germany. The Danish nazi organization is generally considered harmless. The only mention of it in recent times has been because of the state supporting their radio station financially, which the population felt was a bit much. Still, that was in a slow news period.
All this means that Danes will consider people from other western countries harmless, that people who look like they come from the middle east may be subject to racism, and that when you're out drinking you should keep in mind that the guy who's a foot smaller than you, looks like he's from the middle east and extremely provoking carries a cellphone and will call his friends who'll be waiting outside if you let yourself be provoked. Still, Denmark is a pretty safe place to go out so don't let all this put you off enjoying a good night out.
With that said, it's also important to notice that there is a great majority of people not ethnically Danish who function quite well in our society.
The foreign policy is noteworthy because political parties which aren't in the government still have influence over the politics because of the mandates received at the elections. Therefore, with each larger issue, the government will point out a direction, and the different political parties will add their twist to the foreign policy. Therefore Denmark is a member of the European Union, but we don't use the Euro (although it is accepted currency in stores), and Denmark has been a part of the coalition that invaded Iraq in 2003. Generally the Danish foreign policy has been to help other countries as much as we can and do the right thing. Denmark always participates in humanitarian work as much as possible.
Drinking in Denmark
The legal limit for buying alcohol in bars and so on is 18 years. It is legal, however, to buy alcohol and tobacco in supermarkets and shops before 8 p.m. if you are at least 16 years (after 8 p.m., only bars, restaurants etc. with a permit are allowed to sell alcohol).
If you have more than 0.05 promille of alcohol in your blood you are considered legally drunk and it will be illegal to drive a car. This limit translates to one beer or glass of wine.
Speaking of beer, Denmark is renowned for the Carlsberg pilsner, which is exported to most of the world except asia.
However, a lot of different beer is brewed in Denmark - the Carlsberg breweries have another brand known as Tuborg which is mainly produced for the domestic market. The main Tuborg label called Green Tuborg has a gentler taste than Carsberg pilsner and is preferred by many.
Other major breweries are Faxe, Albani and Thor(which produces the Ceres brand as well).
Beer is the mainstay of adults in Denmark. People drink it just about everywhere. There is a deposit on every beer can and bottle sold in Denmark so people return them at the supermarkets for recycling. This works very well - nobody throws away empty beer bottles because they're worth money.
Most young people in Denmark go to discoteques thursday or friday. People usually show up around midnight and stay until about 5 or 6 a.m. at which time most places close. Also, the train services in the HT area resume at about 6.30. The metro runs around the clock.